Capt. Gary Henderson, Florida

March 28th, 2005

So This Is Entertainment?

By Captain Gary (Flats Dude) Henderson
"My childhood was not uncommon for the time. Individuality was encouraged. Independence was encouraged. A kid did not expect to be 'entertained.' You made your own entertainment. A far cry from today." (an excerpt from Deanna Birkholm's article, "Ladies Night")

A friend of mine invited me out of my office the other day to see his new truck. Yep, brand spankin' new, shiny black beast, decked out with all the bells and whistles. Nice! As I opened the rear door to this monster, there, attached to the back of the front "captain's chairs", were two, mind you, T-W-O DVD players, mini-types, facing to the rear. He has two kids. Bear with me; I'll attempt to tie this all together later.

Many years ago, while vacationing in Anna Maria Island, Florida, my now ex-sister-in-law decided to spend a weekend with us. She has two girls and a boy.

As I have described Anna Maria in past articles, the place is beautiful. White-sand beaches, emerald waters, sunsets paint the western horizon almost every afternoon, unless the thunderstorms move in. Even if they do, the lightning show is better than any Fourth of July fireworks display. The bottle-nosed dolphins play so close to shore one can almost touch them. Critters, like sand fleas and small crabs, can be dug up in the warm, wet sand. There are live and multicolored coquinas that can be scooped into ones hands from the edge of the water, and feel them try to dig their way back out through ones fingers. Yet, to my two nieces and nephew, "There's nothing to do."

The house we rented faced the Sunshine Skyway Bridge eight miles to the east. The entire rear of the house was huge, glass windows that overlooked the bay, and just around the bend of the island, within sight of the house, was the Gulf of Mexico. Just sitting in the living room was one of the best seats in the joint to observe, well, everything. But still, there was nothing to do, according to the whiney kids. Oh yeah, there was a television in the living room... damn, almost forgot! So, there they would sit, staring wide-eyed at the one-eyed babysitter, as all the beauty of the beach, top to bottom, passed right outside of the thin, glass windows.

That weekend, I really upset the apple cart. I cut the plug off the television with my pocket knife. No more day-long cartoons, it was time to drag the kicking and screaming brats outside to explore; to show them there was more to life than inside of that Cyclops called television. By the end of the three-day weekend, the TV was history, and all four of us spent the rest of their time there digging clams, playing with critters we found in the soft sand and spending time where "there's nothin' to do."

As I read Deanna's article, parts of it took me back to those kids, and I was reminded of growing up in a simpler time without DVDs and televisions in every room.

Sundays were special back in my youth. Those particular afternoons were set aside for family, and certainly no television. We had one, eventually. A black and white Zenith that was connected to an antenna outside that I would have to go out and turn as my dad yelled from inside the house whether the reception had improved from bad, to a little better than bad. It was seldom watched. There was more to the world outside than a snowy, TV screen.

Sunday afternoon, a time to "go get lost," as Dad would put it. We would load up in whatever old car we had at the time. The '55 Chevy, or the '60 Buick LaSabre were the two most memorable cars to me. I learned to drive with both of those neat, old cars. Anyway, Mom, Dad and I would take off after the noon meal in whichever direction the nose of the car was pointed, and we would, literally, try and "get lost."

There were things to see, places along 'side the road to stop and check out, future fishing spots to explore. I recorded these sounds, sights and smells in my young memory. And, little did I know at the time, use them, long for them and return to them as an adult. Dad would pull off the road at any given point to see "stuff." Things of interest, like stuffed, monster alligators at places where signs advertised of "Real Indians, Cypress Knee Lamps, Saltwater Taffy and Beaded Indian Belts." Places where fresh-squeezed, orange juice was served up cold and free.

During the three-month long summer breaks from school, mostly my time was spent outdoors. A lot of this time, I spent by myself. Even at an early age, I had my own garden to attend. With help from Dad tilling the ground, I would labor out there beside the house planting seeds and young tomatoes. I looked after my little piece of ground, pulling weeds, hovering over it and waiting for the day I would proudly present my mom with the fruits of my labor. What a thrill to harvest part of our supper!

As a young'un, I played in ditches and caught craw-dads, turtles and frogs. I had "best friends" to pretend with. We were pirates, and cowboys and Indians. We had Roy Rogers cap guns with holsters, Hop-a-Long Cassidy watches and cowboy boots and hats. We caught "toad frawgs" and turned 'em loose in the minnow pond to just watch 'em swim.

There's a television commercial that comes on every once in a while that's really cool. I think it's "Go RV'ing". There are actually two of them. One shows a campfire at a distance and a man's voice saying, "I can't find my foot... I can't find my foot...", then he yells out, "CAN YOU HELP ME!!??" Excited screams from kids can be heard. It's a dad telling ghost stories around the fire to his kids. Neat. The other is talking about fences around the playground, and the backyard. It then cuts to a couple of kids playing on some beach with no fences and then asks the question, "Who will entertain the kids?" It then shows a little boy with the look of wonderment on his face as he looks up at a giant redwood tree, and the narrator says, "Mother Nature, that's who." Well, something like that.

As Dad drove, a continuous movie played outside the car's windows. There was no need for DVDs strapped to the back of the seats. There still isn't.

So, that's entertainment huh? My movies were better.

See y'all next week. ~ Capt. Gary

About Gary:

Gary grew up in central Florida and spent much of his youth fishing the lakes that dot the area. After moving a little closer to the coast, his interests changed from fresh to salt. Gary still visits his "roots" in the "lake behind the house."

He obtained his captain's license in the early '90's and fished the blue waters of the Atlantic for a little over twelve years. His interests in the beautiful shallow water flats in and around the famous Mosquito Lagoon came around twenty-five years ago. Even though Captain Gary doesn't professionally guide anymore, his respect of the waters will ever be present.

Gary began fly fishing and tying mostly saltwater patterns in the early '90's and has participated as a demo fly tier for the Federation of Fly Fishers on numerous occasions. He is a private fly casting and tying instructor and stained glass artist, creating mostly saltwater game fish in glass.

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